True Blue for Boys

In the past, the wealth of intricate beliefs and notions surrounding every aspect of an infant’s life, from conception and birth to early childhood, kept parents and family ever conscious of averting all possible dangers and evils.

All colours chosen for children’s clothes were considered of primary importance, because of the symbolism attached to each specific colour. Children were never to wear black, which in European countries has always been linked with death and mourning, while red was the colour of blood, passion, and vitality, and also linked to witchcraft. Blue, however, was regarded as protective against all evil forces and, hence, considered especially suitable for boys.

Throughout history in all cultures worldwide, blue – the colour of the heavens – was considered divine and symbolic of purity and truth, therefore warding off all malevolent forces. In the Persian mythological epic Shahnameh, blue is the colour of kingship and sovereignty. The Mesopotamian monarchs in ancient Sumer and Akkad are reputed to have worn crowns and garments decorated with blue lapis lazuli stone, indicating kingship. The god Odin is said to have always worn a blue coat, and Druidic high priests and Jewish high priests alike are reputed to have worn blue robes, signifying holiness. To the Yezidis of northern Iraq, blue is the most sacred colour and, therefore, never worn by them. In modern times, blue is regarded as a canonical colour. 

To signify their exalted and heavenly character, the gods were often painted blue in Egyptian and Indian mythological paintings. The Egyptians conceived the supreme god Kneph, the father of Ptah, as a man of blue. The Egyptian god Osiris is invoked as the ‘god of Turquoise’ and the ‘god of Lapis Lazuli’. In India, elemental blue is still the colour of the unsullied, holy lotus and the long-eyed gods. The colour of Krishna was blue, and his name means ‘blue-black’. To the South American Mayas, blue, the colour of the vault of heaven, represented holiness, chastity, and sanctity. Until the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, those who offered themselves as propitiatory sacrifices to their deity smeared their bodies with blue paint, signifying the exalted and heavenly character of their gods. The ancient Britons observed a similar custom. Caesar found the ancient Britons facing his troops in battle smeared with blue war paint, pointing to the probability that these men went into battle with the full intention of sacrificing themselves.

Humanity has always feared and revered the colour blue and considered it the most powerful protector against evil influences. Moslems and Christians alike use the colour to keep unwanted influences at bay, and one has only to think of the well-known Victorian rhyme regarding the bridal ensemble, ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’.

In the Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and North African countries, blue is still used in averting the evil eye. Discs consisting of blue and white concentric circles representing an evil eye are common apotropaic charms, the contention being that the staring eye bends the malicious gaze back to a potential sorcerer. The same blue symbol is also found on the prows of Mediterranean boats and common in Turkey and Morocco on houses, in cars, or worn as personal charms. The blue eye is similarly found on protective hand-shaped amulets known in the Middle East as the Hamsa Hand, or Hand of Fatima, and amongst Jews as the Hand of Miriam. 

Blue is widely seen as the symbol of truth, which is why we still speak of something being ‘true blue’, meaning unwavering, constant, stable, or steadfast. However, the origin of this expression might be derived from a certain type of blue cloth made in Coventry, England, during the Middle Ages. The dye of this specific cloth apparently remained fast or true when it was common for colours to run and fade, contending that the literal meaning of fast-coloured was transferred to figuratively imply steadfast in character. 

Similarly, there is a popular notion that the term blue-blooded, to indicate royal or aristocratic bloodlines, might have originated from a physical characteristic. The Spanish expression sangre azul meaning ‘blue blood’, is thought to refer to the blueness of the veins visible on the very light-skinned, fair Castilian nobles who were proud of their old heritage. They claimed never to have intermarried with the Moors, Jews, and other races populating Spain during the Middle Ages, hence the term ‘blue-blooded’, signifying high rank and birth. However, because of the association of the colour with the divine and sacred, since ancient times, it is most likely that the term blue-blooded is a relic of the ancient doctrine of the divinity of kingship.


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